More Adventures in the New Soy Technology

When I was a kid, all the hippies were crazy for soy. It was the new thing. They had discovered tofu and tempeh, and were putting it in everything.

Today, soy is in the culinary dog house. Vegans, yoga students and Birkenstock wearers have moved on to quinoa, textured vegetable protein and nut cutlets. Websites with names like Natural Health Strategies and Hidden Soy decry the dangers of soy, and expose the nefarious secret intentions of the soy industry. All of this just as it seems to me that soy is finally getting its act together!

Michael Portnoy soy bombs Bob Dylan at the 1998 Grammy Awards

Performance artist Michael Portnoy soy bombs Bob Dylan at the 1998 Grammy Awards

It was the Halloween carnival fundraiser last year at my children’s elementary school. I was approached beforehand: Sean, could you make a large pot of chili to sell at the fundraiser? More

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Jon

When I was in my 20s, I wrote a cookbook called “The Single Guy’s Cookbook & Guide to Entertaining.” My friend Mark (you may remember him as “Sidekick Mark” from previous posts) and I were at sushi one night talking about how impressive and economical it was to cook dinner for a date. Recite to her a little poetry you’d written with a glass of wine by the fire afterward, and she was yours. The recipes were simple and good, the advice intuitive… a book that was basically a guide for all those guys who burn toast or ruin a salad.

Jon's dinner

So it is with our friend Jon. Recently separated from his wife, he’s the guy who invites us over for dinner, and then asks what we’re having. He’s the guy who sends me pictures of what he’s preparing for dinner so I’ll feel sorry for him and invite him to our house instead. When his parents are in town visiting, he invites them to our house. He’s one of our favorite people and we love his kids, so we don’t mind. But I feel an almost philanthropic instinct to feed him. More

The New Soy Technology

Some friends of ours had German guests visiting, and were going to take them to In & Out Burger. “I hope they have soy burgers,” said friend Amanda. “Our friends don’t eat any meat.” I suggested she get them regular burgers and tell them that they were soy burgers, and that they’d made incredible advances in soy technology. Germans are gullible that way. Suffering a national cuisine inferiority complex with France and Italy as neighbors, they’re likely to act overly knowledgeable and tell you they already knew that.

Meat grown in a lab

I was reminded of one of my younger sister, Siobhan’s, bouts of vegetarianism when we were teenagers. I was trying to get her to eat a chicken breast, and she was protesting. “They don’t have to kill the chicken,” I said, “they just cut the breasts off and they grow back. Like a lizard’s tail!” She glared at me. She also wasn’t buying my contention that to get chicken broth, all you had to do was wring the live chicken out over a pot. (More like “juicing” a chicken.) More

So This Skinny Girl Walks Into a Bar…

The Bacon Tree

Tomorrow one of my skinny yoga teacher sisters is coming for dinner. (Yes, I’ve got two.) She’s not exactly a vegetarian – she eats a lot of fish, which is okay in the culinary curriculum of many vegetarians. (Fish being some sort of pseudo-animal, I guess, more related to an avocado than a pig.) There should be a new name for these types of eaters — quasitarians, maybe… or rationalitarians. She will also eat “small quantities” of meat. I’m not sure exactly where the line is on that one. I think I’ll play it safe and grill some whole sea bass, slice up some tuna crudo, make a couple pizzas. More

You’re a What-atarian?

I was at a dinner party talking to my friend Jon, who was poking at a plate of quinoa.

“What is this?” he asked.
“Quinoa,” I said.
“What’s quinoa?”
“Yoga food,” I said.
“Is it pasta?”
“It’s a grain,” I said.
“Spell it.”
“Q-U-I-N-O-A”
He asked if our friend had grown it in her garden. I excused myself. Over by the stove, a gal was looking at the Venetian bean soup I had brought.

“Is there meat in it?” she asked.
“Yes, pancetta,” I replied. She looked puzzled. “It’s like Italian bacon.”
“Oh,” she breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m a vegetarian. But the exception is pork.”
My kind of vegetarian.

Although it seems a somewhat cut-and-dry concept, you meet many different kinds of vegetarians. I was doing a cooking workshop for my friend’s Girls Gourmet Group the other night. I should’ve researched their eating preferences first. I held up a dead chicken soon to be Moroccan chicken with preserved lemon and olives, and they all looked mortified. Turns out three of the five girls are vegetarians, and one is a “sometimes, mostly” vegetarian. (Which meant I had a window with the chicken for her…) But the three were not “strictly” vegetarian, as they had gobbled down a catch of fish last time I cooked with them.

“So you eat meat that swims but not that flies or walks?” I asked by way of clarification.
“Right,” they said.

I think some people are vegetarians for moral reasons, and others for dietary reasons. Some are vegetarians for proximity reasons (i.e. they’re partner is a vegetarian). I’ve always admired vegetarians. I love the idea that nothing was killed in the making of your meal. But I also love meat. More.

There are those people on the fringe who think that the plant cries a silent scream when you pull it from the earth. What do those people eat?

When we eat meat at our house, we (usually) eat very small quantities. A few ounces each of Kobe beef, a couple thin slices of pancetta in a pasta, etc. I think if the carnivore world at large took a more ethical approach to meat — eat less of it, know where your meat comes from and that the animal had a good life — the world would be a much better place on many levels.

I never could’ve married a vegetarian. Except, maybe, for that pork vegetarian.